It should not have bothered me that much. After all, the reporter is young and rather new at this job. He was writing quickly on deadline. Yet the reality of his words still stung a bit.
The story was about a man in his 60s. The reporter referred to him as an "elderly man." An elderly man at 66?
I strongly disagreed. A 60-something may indeed be an old hippie, a baby boomer or even an older man, but no, say it's not so that he is "elderly."
The wonderful thing about working with young people is that it keeps me thinking young as well. That is most of time but not always. After all, I am eligible for senior discounts and remember when reporters made a lot of noise clacking away on typewriters in the newsroom rather than soft-spoken keyboards.
Rubbing shoulders with young men and women who are new to the newspaper business can be a challenge because this industry is constantly changing through technology while remaining steadfast in its pledge for clean, straight-forward news reporting. "All the news that's fit to print" has been the mantra of our business for many years, but sometimes it's a challenge to know just what is "fitting."
While TV and radio offer very different ways of seeing or hearing the news, they can be fleeting. A 10-second blurb on the radio or a 60-second TV report on an important meeting leaves me wanting more. But a newspaper article with lots of attention to details and photos that I can hold in my hand, carry with me or tuck into a scrapbook makes for a more lasting memory.
The ability for the world to instantly learn about the latest news only challenges the young and older journalists to keep the readers informed while offering some entertainment value as well. That, too, is why I enjoy seeing and hearing a younger reporter's approach to a story.
It's amazing how, at any age, we never stop learning. While they may giggle at my ineptness on the latest gadget - iPod, Wii, etc. - they are good enough to teach an old dog new tricks. And sometimes they appreciate this senior staffer for knowing where nearly every street in Wheeling is located or the correct spelling of city, county and state officials' names.
Still it is often daunting to realize that you are now classmates with people who are called grandma and pap-pap or to see your friend's name in the obituary column.
One wise young reporter once told me that we are as old as our music and music is timeless. I've often thought about that comment when a favorite song from my youth comes across the radio. Suddenly I am back at Joe's Grill at lunchtime, sitting in a booth with my teenaged-peers, singing along to "American Pie" playing on the jukebox. And, oh yeah, those black discs going around inside the jukebox are called records, but that's a whole other column ...
Heather Ziegler can be reached via e-mail at ziegler@ theintelligencer.net.